It Keeps Coming Down to Loving One Another

Jerome, one of the early church fathers, claimed that late in his long life, the apostle John kept repeating Jesus’ command, “Love one another,” explaining, “Because it is the Lord’s commandment, and if it be fulfilled, it is enough.”  As Christians, the focus of our lives should be in loving one another, “because it is the Lord’s command, and if it be fulfilled, it is enough.”

It is significant to note that when Paul writes instructions to children and parents and to slaves and masters, his focus is not primarily on fulfilling one’s role but on living out love in whatever position a person would find oneself. 

In Ephesians 6:1-3, Paul instructs children on how they should live.  He begins by telling them, “obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”  Then he quickly shifts the focus to something higher than mere obedience.  In verse 2, he writes, “‘Honor your father and mother’—this is the first commandment with a promise: ‘so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’” 

According to Webster’s Dictionary, to honor someone is to esteem that person, to credit value to that person, to treat that person with respect, or to confer distinction upon that person. 

That sounds a lot like what Christ did for us. Despite our sin—despite the disrespect we have shown to God through our sinfulness—Christ determined that we were so valuable and esteemed in his eyes that he was willing to give his very life for us.

It is entirely possible to obey a person without loving that person, but it is incredibly difficult to honor a person without loving them.  Thus Paul shifts the focus from mere obedience to honor.  He calls children to credit esteem to their mothers and fathers—regardless of their shortcomings—even as Christ has done toward us.

When Paul turns his attention to parents (“fathers”) in Ephesians 6:4, his focus is not on their role and authority as much as it is on love.  He concludes his instructions to parents by writing, “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” but he begins by stating, “Do not provoke your children to anger.”  This is a concern that grows out of love for children.

One of the great ways in which children are provoked to anger is through neglect—the withholding of love.  Many years ago, a mother and father wrote to The Kansas City Star, “It is too late for us because the damage has been done…but maybe if we share this letter it will help other parents.” 

To this, they attached a letter their son had written: “Dear Folks, Thank you for everything, but I am going to Chicago and try to start some kind of new life…. Remember when I was about six or seven and I used to want you to just listen to me?  I remember all the nice things you gave me for Christmas and my birthday and I was real happy with the things for about a week at the time I got the things, but the rest of the time during the year, I really didn’t want presents.  I just wanted…for you to listen to me like I was somebody who felt things too, because I remember even when I was young, I felt things.  But you said you were busy…. If Donna ever has children, I hope you will tell her to just pay some attention to the one that doesn’t smile very much because that one will really be crying inside.  And when she’s about to bake six dozen cookies to make sure first that the kids don’t want to tell her about a dream or a hope or something, because thoughts are important to small kids…. I think that all the kids who are doing so many things that the grownups are tearing their hair out worrying about are really looking for somebody that will have time to listen a few minutes and who really and truly will treat them as they would a grownup who might be useful to them…. If anybody asks you where I am, tell them I have gone looking for somebody with time because I’ve got a lot of things I want to talk about.”

When Paul addresses “masters,” in Ephesians 6:9, he takes a similar approach as he did with “fathers.”  He focuses not on the role, authority or rights of a master over a worker.  He focuses instead or their commonality: Both have “the same Master in heaven.”  And he focuses on loving and respectful treatment, telling masters to “do the same to” their workers as he had instructed the workers to do to their masters: “Doing the will of God from the heart,” rendering “service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord…knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free.”  And he warns masters, “Stop threatening them.”    

In all of our relationships and in all of our roles in life, it keeps coming down to this: Love one another, “because it is the Lord’s command, and if it be fulfilled, it is enough.”

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